Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace was on The Late Show Tuesday night to promote his new book on the atomic bomb. But Stephen Colbert really wanted to talk to him about this explosive moment in American politics.
“Have you ever seen anything like the moment we’re going through right now?” Colbert asked at the top of the interview.
“The only year that comes to mind is 1968,” Wallace replied. But even with everything going on then, he said, there wasn’t a global pandemic that has claimed over 100,000 American lives and led to economic collapse. “So that’s an added feature for 2020.”
“Well, another added feature for 2020 is you have all these retired military coming out and expressing their criticism, their distress, their dismay at the behavior of our present president,” Colbert said. But while Wallace said he wasn’t “particularly surprised” by Colin Powell’s endorsement of Joe Biden, he was genuinely “shocked” by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ scathing rebuke of Trump last week.
When Mattis’ 2019 book came out, Wallace said, “a lot of people, including myself, were disappointed that he didn’t say what he had to say about Donald Trump.” He argued that that made Mattis’ condemnation now even more “damaging” to the president.
For the most part, it was a friendly chat between the two broadcasters, but things did get a little testy when Colbert asked Wallace if it is essentially “too late” for Trump to deliver some sort of unifying speech on race, as his administration has indicated he might do in the near future.
“Has he thrown away all of his political capital on doubling down that these protesters and this opposition to the way that his administration has responded to this aren’t legitimate enough to address?” the host asked.
Wallace “pushed back” on the notion that Trump has called all of the protesters violent, citing a line from Trump’s Rose Garden speech in which he claimed to stand with “peaceful” demonstrators.
“But while he said that, in the middle of saying that, you could hear the flash grenades going off in the background against peaceful protesters!” Colbert shot back, interrupting his guest. “So he has no ground to stand on there.” When Wallace tried to dismiss that statement as Colbert’s “view,” the host replied, “No, it’s not my view, that actually happened!”
Wallace insisted that he doesn’t “want to be in the position of defending” the president and allowed that there were “many opportunities” for Trump to address police brutality and racial inequality in meaningful ways and so far he has declined to do so. Ultimately, the best thing Wallace could say about the president is that “whether you like it or not, he’s Donald Trump.”
Later, Colbert brought out just one of the Twitter attacks Trump has leveled against Wallace, prompting the Fox host to joke that he was stealing Jimmy Kimmel’s “Mean Tweets” bit. “Does it make you feel good when this happens because if a journalist makes the comfortable uncomfortable, and the powerful a little bit on edge, haven’t you done your job?” Colbert asked.
“Yes, generally speaking, I would agree with that,” Wallace said, boasting for a moment about making “both sides” mad at him from time to time. He even suggested that Colbert “hates” him.
“I don’t hate you, man,” Colbert said with a smile. “I love having you on.”